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NATO-UNHCR airlift continues as trucks rush aid to Pakistan quake victims

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NATO-UNHCR airlift continues as trucks rush aid to Pakistan quake victims

23 October 2005

23 October 2005

A joint NATO-UNHCR airlift of urgently needed relief supplies for Pakistan neared the 200-tonne mark Sunday, while on the ground UN refugee agency trucks rushed tents, blankets and other aid to camps for the growing numbers of displaced people in mountainous, quake-stricken areas.

Two NATO C-130 cargo planes, one British and the other Italian, left Incirlik airbase in southern Turkey on Sunday, bringing the total number of flights to 17 since the unprecedented airbridge began on Oct. 19. Six sorties were flown on Saturday - two each by planes from France, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

NATO planes from several nations are participating in the airlift, which will carry at least 860 tonnes of UNHCR relief supplies from the agency's emergency stockpiles in Turkey to Pakistan. UNHCR and NATO officials say it is the largest such joint operation ever conducted by the two organisations.

Turkish-supplied trucks are ferrying the aid from UNHCR's warehouse in Iskenderun to Incirlik - a two-hour drive. The supplies are then loaded onto NATO cargo planes for the flight to Islamabad. As of Sunday, more than 600 tonnes had been delivered to Incirlik and 177 tonnes had been flown to Pakistan. Officials are looking into the possibility of using even larger aircraft.

Separately, UNHCR has so far sent a dozen planeloads of supplies to Pakistan from other emergency stockpiles in Copenhagen, Dubai and Jordan. By the end of next week, UNHCR expects to have delivered from its emergency stockpiles around the world more than 15,000 family tents, 220,000 blankets, 68,794 plastic sheets, 500 plastic rolls, 31,840 kitchen sets, 2,000 stoves and 5,000 lanterns.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, a UNHCR 10-truck convoy carrying 2,100 blankets, 700 family tents, 1,400 plastic sheets and 1,400 jerry cans was on its way Sunday to two camps in the devastated Balakot area. The convoy was carrying goods from UNHCR's warehouse in Peshawar. On Saturday night, an eight-truck UNHCR convoy from Peshawar delivered tents, blankets and jerry cans to the Muzaffarabad area.

The Pakistan government has asked UNHCR to help set up temporary camps for the displaced. UNHCR emergency teams - including experts in camp planning - have been deployed to five key locations in the north of Pakistan (Mansehra, Balakot, Batagram, Bagh and Muzaffarabad).

In Balakot, two camps for earthquake victims have been set up - Bassian and Ghari Habibullah. A total of 300 tents housing 1,610 people have so far been erected at Bassian and the Pakistan military is asking for 500 more tents. At Ghari Habibullah, nearly 1,400 people are staying in 340 tents.

Officials are urgently seeking more tents to house families who are arriving every day in search of help. It is likely many more people will come down from their destroyed mountain villages as winter sets in, and many are expected to remain in the valleys throughout the cold season.